Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

How to Survive After a Law Firm Computer Crash

It's the middle of the night and you're facing a deadline, or you have a "hot pen," to use Justice Ginsburg's phrasing, when suddenly your screen goes black. You have no idea if your current work has been saved, but worse still -- what about all your other work?

Computer crashes are no fun at all, and if you can't make it to an IT professional to fix the problem, you may want to try these suggestions out before you truly start panicking:

Google the Problem

The deep, dark secret of technical support is that the person on the other end of the phone doesn't know how to solve your problem, either. He or she is searching Google for the solution. You can do that, too -- during which time you'll discover whether the problem can be easily solved or not. (For example, loose RAM can cause a machine to go down and not turn back on. Just wiggle the RAM a little bit and you'll be fine.)

Hope Your Backup Drive Works

Please don't tell us you're not backing up your stuff. If you're on Windows, there are a variety of low-cost backup solutions available. If you're on Mac OS, you have zero excuses. Time Machine, the Apple backup solution, comes with the operating system at no additional cost. External hard drives are dirt cheap, so go get one now.

Hope Your Cloud Storage Works

Ideally, your future isn't resting on a 3.5-inch mechanical hard drive. As a "Plan C," you should have your most important documents stored in The Cloud somewhere, whether it's Dropbox, iCloud, Microsoft One Drive, or whatever. That way, even if all your mechanical backups turn out to be useless, the truly important stuff is safe inside a triple-redundant data center somewhere.

Get an External Drive Enclosure

It could be that, when you say "my hard drive crashed," it really wasn't the hard drive, but some other component of the computer. Run down to a computer store that's still in business and get yourself an external hard drive enclosure. This will let you take out the hard drive from your malfunctioning computer and plug it into another computer via USB. (We're assuming you've got an old laptop or something lying around because, hey, everyone does.)

Use Linux

This solution is only for the truly "h4xx0r" types out there who like to tinker around. Mac OS and Windows often won't mount a hard drive that contains errors. Linux, on the other hand, couldn't care less. If you happen to have a Linux machine (or a friend does), you can use a Linux Live CD and a working external hard drive to pull whatever data you can off your broken hard drive.

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